Int. J. Dev. Biol. 47: 105 - 115 (2003)
© UPV/EHU Press

Making developmental biology relevant to undergraduates in an era of economic rationalism in Australia.

Brian Key and Victor Nurcombe

Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, School of Biomedical Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. brian.key@uq.edu.au

ABSTRACT This report describes the road map we followed at our university to accommodate three main factors: financial pressure within the university system; desire to enhance the learning experience of undergraduates; and motivation to increase the prominence of the discipline of developmental biology in our university. We engineered a novel, multi-year undergraduate developmental biology program which was "student-oriented," ensuring that students were continually exposed to the underlying principles and philosophy of this discipline throughout their undergraduate career. Among its key features are introductory lectures in core courses in the first year, which emphasize the relevance of developmental biology to tissue engineering, reproductive medicine, therapeutic approaches in medicine, agriculture and aquaculture. State-of-the-art animated computer graphics and images of high visual impact are also used. In addition, students are streamed into the developmental biology track in the second year, using courses like human embryology and courses shared with cell biology, which include practicals based on modern experimental approaches. Finally, fully dedicated third-year courses in developmental biology are undertaken in conjunction with stand-alone practical courses where students experiencefirst-hand work in a research laboratory. Our philosophy is a "cradle-to-grave" approach to the education of undergraduates so as to prepare highly motivated, enthusiastic and well-educated developmental biologists for entry into graduate programs and ultimately post-doctoral research.